- (Photo: Reuters/ )
Pope Benedict XVI celebrated his 85th birthday on Monday at the Vatican, where he dismissed talk of retirement but asked for prayers as he prepares for the "final stretch" of his life.
"I am facing the final leg of the path of my life and I don't know what's ahead," Pope Benedict declared during the day's events. "I know though that God's light is there ... and that his light is stronger than every darkness."
A live band from his native Bavaria played at the celebration for the pope, who also received birthday greetings and a host of "many happy years" from prominent world leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Queen Elizabeth II. The pope held both a public and private ceremony, and welcomed more than 150 bishops, including his brother, Monsignor Georg Ratzinger, Reuters reported.
It has been revealed that Pope Benedict XVI has had to begin using a cane lately, a testament to his frail age – at 85 years old, Benedict is the oldest reigning pope since Leo XIII, who died aged 93 in 1903 after reigning for 25 years.
He is also set to celebrate on Thursday the seventh anniversary of his appointment as the Holy Father, and on Sunday made it known that despite rumors he might consider retiring, he has every intention to continue his service. Pope Benedict asked for prayers and strength so that he can "fulfill the mission (the Lord) entrusted to me."
Monsignor Ratzinger, who is Benedict's older brother by three years who was ordained during the same year, expressed concern over the pope's health after his grueling trips to Mexico and Cuba earlier the year.
"I think he won't travel that much anymore, because it's more and more of an effort," Ratzinger expressed.
Pope Benedict XVI is still expected to fly out for a trip to Lebanon in the coming month, however.